Monday, June 05, 2006

Forever Young

Greenwich Village is ageless, forever young. No one has really deciphered the secret of its perpetual youth. The Village holds onto this vigor, despite the meddling of outsiders and many challenges to the integrity of its existence.

Currently Greenwich Village is in the stranglehold of newstyle yuppies, and corporate America (including that wild and greedy private corporation, New York University), determined to choke the life out of the dynamism of this area that has always existed as a country within a country. At the moment, these challengers to the creative milieu of the Village appear to be winning on all fronts. In addition to the expanding tentacles of NYU, CVS and Duane Reade have replaced jazz and theatre landmarks on Bleecker street. An apartment building replaces the innovative presence of Theatre in the Square (which had been chased away from Washington Square by NYU) on Bleecker, a condominium appears to be replacing the tiny theatre on Sullivan Street that gave birth to The Fantasticks. NYU managed to drive the Bottom Line out of business so that great Village Landmark could be replaced by classrooms and a lecture hall. Even the Provincetown Playhouse is now under the aegis of NYU. The city, distressed by the lack of symmetry in Washington Square Park, is spending millions of dollars in public funds to move the central fountain a few feet in order to align it with the Arch and Fifth Avenue.

The Village has been the birthplace of many ideas that have challenged America and created a new culture. In the 1630s Dutch settlers cleared the land and named their settlement Noortwyck. To the north, the Village Grin'wich (1713) was once a rural hamlet, separate from New York City. When it was incorporated into the city, it retained the layout of streets, which was angular and antithetical to the logical square grid layout of the rest of the city. This lack of conformity geographically to the rest of the city reflects the divergent stance of the residents and artists who found the Village as a resonator for their progressive ideas.

The Village has been the Bohemia of the country, the home for the avant-gard and alternative culture with the small presses, art galleries, and experimental theatre and music. Every generation has found an important oulet there until now. Greats such as Maxwell Bodenheim, Eugene O'Neill, Jack Kerouac, Marcel Duchamp, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Bob Dylan flourished in the Village because the open spirit invited change.

Youth, more than anything is characterized by change. The Village has been the homeplace of our young thinkers and artists, and even now they flock to this historical birthplace of their predecessors. They have been forced underground by the establishment, and perhaps they are surfacing in newer progressive communities elsewhere.

But the beat goes on. Walk down any street in the Village and you will sense the underlying energy. Its eternal youth is vibrating all around you. In a matter of time, something wonderful will erupt once more, spawned in some movement on some tiny side street in the Village on the fringe of the corporate shadows that currently obscure the rich tradition of a continually changing and vibrant culture.

No comments: